Name: Ryan Roberts
Age on Opening Day: 30
2011 Stats: 143 games, 555 PAs, .249/.341/.427, 19 HR, 65 RBI
2010 Stats: 36 games, 71 PAs, .197/.229/.348, 2 HR, 9 RBI
What can you say about Ryan Roberts's 2011 season? He was a player most of us really didn't expect much out of, who was better known for his tattoos and living arrangements in AAA in 2010 than he was for his play on the field. A utility player who barely made the roster out of Spring Training, at the venerable age of 30, playing backup to the likes of Melvin Mora. That's not a formula for a big season.
But like the team itself, Ryan Roberts exceeded pretty much everyone's expectations. Is there any player that might better represent the 2011 Diamondbacks than the Dread Pirate? Low expectations, perhaps not as much talent as the situation called for, but playing with grit and guts, and doing enough to get the job done. It may not have been pretty, it may not be repeatable, but Ryan Roberts was a nice surprise this year and did his part to help the Diamondbacks succeed.
Low. Roberts put up unimpressive numbers in 2010, spent some time in the minors, and wasn't really seen as a sure-thing to make the roster. Even if he did, he was primarily seen as a backup player to a position he'd only played in 23 games in the majors. Really, I don't think most of us expected much from him at all.
I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that Roberts probably outplayed everyone's expectations this year. I mean, someone may have thought Roberts would have hit 19 home runs and stolen 18 bases, but I certainly didn't, and if they can document such a claim, I will give them a dollar.
But the discussion would be incomplete without me including this:
I don't know how many times I've watched that grand slam, but it's always fun. I'm surprised at how quickly that thing flies out of there, and wonder how many of those seats emptied out half an inning earlier.
In a way, it's almost difficult to look at Ryan Roberts's season with an unbiased eye. I mean, I look at the stats, and they don't match up with how I remember him playing during the year. Only hitting .249? He barely hit over .200 in September? Didn't he have more big hits? It's interesting to look at his splits in different leverage situations, because then it starts to make sense. Roberts played pretty well, but he came up big when the game was on the line- .360/.417/.581 in high leverage situations, for an OPS of .998. When the pressure was on, Ryan Roberts became Ryan Braun, but with more ink and fewer post-season questions about his training regimen.
He certainly performed well in the playoffs, too- another memorable grand slam, and solid numbers against the Brewers. A good end to a good season.
Wellll... I don't expect him to repeat 2011, really. Last season might have been a career year for him, and if it was, it came at a great time. Some regression seems inevitable. Unfortunately, but hey- maybe we'll be surprised again.
Grade: B+ (Points docked for the Tatman nickname)
Given Roberts was not expected to be on the roster going into spring training, the fact that he ended up among the more productive members of the team was huge. As I think shoe pointed out, his value above replacement is enhanced, by said replacement probably being Melvin Mora, (thus, likely sub-replacement). Much of this was due to RyRo’s monster start - on May 1, he was batting .328 with a 1.072 OPS, and hit only .236 thereafter. He’s now 31, and I’ve a feeling his 2012 numbers might be nearer the latter than the former, but for last season, he and Gerardo Parra were likely the biggest pleasant surprises among D-backs position players.
Every good "worst to first" team needs a few completely inexplicable performances, and Ryan Roberts provided ours. This time last year, Roberts was a 30-year-old utility infielder who wasn’t even expected to make the roster out of spring training, and even when he did, it was as the 25th man. But his offense, combined with a surprising solid glove at third base, made him a starter and a fan favorite (hi April!), and the rest is history. To reiterate: seasons like this are not supposed to happen. But it did, and the Diamondbacks were better for it.
Also, DAT GRAND SLAM.